John Richard Boyd (January 23, 1927 March 9, 1997) was a United
States Air Force fighter pilot and Pentagon consultant during the second half
of the 20th century. His theories have been highly influential in military,
sports, business, and litigation strategies and planning. Boyd inspired the
Lightweight Fighter program (LWF), which produced the successful General
Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon and McDonnell Douglas F/A-18 Hornet, which are
still in use by the United States and by several other military powers into the
Early life Boyd was born on January 23, 1927 in Erie, Pennsylvania. He enlisted
in the Army Air Corps on October 30, 1944 while he was still a junior in high
school. After graduation, he completed his basic training and skill training as
an aircraft turret mechanic during the waning months of World War II. From
January 1946 to January 1947, Boyd served as a swimming instructor in Japan. He
attained the rank of sergeant, and served in the Air Force Reserve until he
graduated from college. He graduated from the University of Iowa in 1951 with a
bachelor's degree in economics and later earned a second bachelor's degree in
industrial engineering from the Georgia Institute of Technology.
Air Force career:
Boyd was commissioned as a second lieutenant in the Air Force following
completion of the ROTC program at the University of Iowa. On March 27, 1953
Boyd arrived in Korea as an F-86 pilot. Boyd flew a short tour (22 missions
instead of 100) in F-86 Sabres during the Korean War during which he served as
a wingman and never fired his guns or claimed an aerial kill. After his service
in Korea, he was invited to attend the Fighter Weapons School. Boyd attended
the school and rose to the top of his class. Upon graduation, he was invited to
stay at the FWS as an instructor. He became head of the Academic Section and
wrote the tactics manual for the school.
Boyd was brought to the Pentagon by Major General Arthur C. Agan, Jr., to do
mathematical analysis that would support the McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle
program in order to pass the Office of the Secretary of Defense's Systems
He was dubbed "Forty Second Boyd" for his standing bet as an
instructor pilot that beginning from a position of disadvantage, he could
defeat any opposing pilot in air combat maneuvering in less than 40 seconds.
According to his biographer, Robert Coram, Boyd was also known at different
points of his career as "The Mad Major" for the intensity of his
passions, as "Genghis John" for his confrontational style of
interpersonal discussion, and as the "Ghetto Colonel" for his spartan
During the Vietnam War, he served as Vice Commander of Task Force Alpha and as
Commander of the 56th Combat Support Group at Nakhon Phanom Royal Thai Air
Force Base in Thailand from April 1972 to April 1973.
At his retirement in 1975, Boyd was awarded the prestigious Harold Brown Award
by the US Air Force. After his retirement, Boyd continued to work at the
Pentagon as a consultant in the Tactical Air office of the Office of the
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Program Analysis and Evaluation.
Boyd died of cancer in Florida on March 9, 1997 at age 70. He was buried with
full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery on March 20, 1997. His
burial site is Section 60, Gravesite 3066.